An Introduction to Goals and Metrics
A recent post about analyzing the right marketing metrics opened a can of worms (in a good way). It can be easy to get distracted by metrics. Often, the focus gets turned to metrics before a business goal is even clearly defined. In the case of college admissions, let’s assume that the main goal is to meet a specific enrollment number. On the way to achieving that enrollment number, there are many actions that prospective students take (inquiring, scheduling visits, applying, being admitted, etc.). These steps along the way are key conversion points in the enrollment funnel and ones that must be measured.
As the old saying goes: if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. And, one thing that we all know needs managing is a budget! Understanding that there is a specified budget to meet enrollment goals, we need to know how much it costs to move prospects from inquiries to enrolled students.
Kalamazoo College, a highly competitive liberal arts college in Kalamazoo, Michigan, has increased applications by 65% compared to the same time in the admissions season last year using a combination of Student Search (email and postal mail) and website retargeting campaigns.
Clickz recently provided some do’s and dont’s related to running retargeting campaigns. Here, we will examine three recommendations in each category that are particularly important for recruitment marketing purposes in higher education.
In terms of do’s, it is recommended to:
- Look at metrics beyond clicks: While click-through rate is a common metric that has long been relied upon, it does not tell the full story. The article suggests that analyzing view-through conversions is one way to help determine how views and impressions contribute to driving site visitors. It is also important to evaluate campaign costs related to specific conversions, including requests for information and applications. Furthermore, it is also crucial to remember that clicks don’t enroll in school!
- Develop dynamic and varied creative assets: Programmatic technology enables creative to be dynamically matched to specific prospective students so that the right message is being delivered at the opportune time. One-size-fits-all messaging does not work, especially with prospective students who expect highly personalized marketing.
- Know your audience so that your messaging is personalized and targeted: Use campaign and website data, market research findings, and knowledge of where prospects are in the funnel to deliver ads that reflect what you know about them and what they are seeking in terms of information.
Digital marketing channels produce a lot of metrics. On websites, marketers often analyze the number of overall site visits, page views, time on site, bounce rate, where visitors are coming from geographically, etc. Landing pages are designed to capture form fills, downloads, or purchases. Social media engagement is often measured via likes, retweets, shares, number of connections, and number of fans or followers. Blogs assess the number of subscribers, comments on posts, and how many times posts are shared. Online advertising campaigns often look at clicks and click-through rates in addition to how the advertising is associated with the website metrics mentioned above.
A recent Rochester Democrat & Chronicle article examines how colleges and universities are increasingly recognizing the importance of prospective students’ “demonstrated interest” during the college admissions process. In some cases, schools are granting “on-the-spot admission” to those prospects who show up in-person for high school visits and college fairs. “If all things are equal between two applicants, and one student visited and another didn’t, the admissions committee leans toward the student who demonstrated interest,” said Stacy Ledermann, Director of Freshman Admissions at St. John Fisher College.
The cross-channel, cross-device nature of website retargeting is a major advantage for colleges and universities in terms of recruitment marketing. Although prospective students seeing ads for schools will hopefully decide to inquire further, schedule visits, and apply, parents (who are important resources and influencers in the college selection process) who view college advertisements can then engage their sons and daughters in important conversations about their future plans.
Targeting multiple members of a household based on viewing specific websites is not great across all industries, particularly at specific times of the year. Did any of you have a similar experience to the author of this recent Variety article, in which the author laments about how he saw the present that his wife bought for him on Facebook and other sites that he visited for almost a month leading up to this year’s holiday season? If so, that is unfortunate but luckily an experience relegated to the retail world. Website retargeting for colleges and universities is always a wise and timely practice that never poses a risk to Santa! For the next few months, retargeting is an especially wise and timely practice for institutions as admissions deadlines rapidly approach.
Well, it’s official: Goldfish now have a longer average attention span than humans (according to a recent Microsoft study).
Still with me?
So, if our attention spans are down to 8 seconds, how does that impact our ability to advertise higher education institutions to prospective students effectively when you consider the following stats:
A Director of Admissions at one of the colleges that we work with (a highly competitive private liberal arts college in the Midwest) recently asked me, “It is great that the retargeting is getting people to our website, but we don’t need top-of-the-funnel help; we need qualified applicants. How can retargeting address that challenge?” He then reminded me that purchasing a list of names for Student Search enabled him to pre-define the characteristics of prospective students that would likely be viable candidates based on entrance exam score ranges, grade point average, etc.
There are various forms of online advertising. Many of these forms can involve big, familiar names like Google, Facebook, and YouTube. There are a lot of abbreviations to keep track of, some of which might not be so familiar: CPC, CPM, CPL, SEM, RTB, CTR…There are even technology platforms with their own abbreviations, such as DMPs and DSPs that help manage and deliver those aforementioned abbreviations, interface with your CRM, and hopefully provide ROI.
We have all heard the expression, “Meet them where they are.” So, where are prospective students?
Ruffalo Noel Levitz’ 2014 E-Expectations Report, The Online Preferences of College-Bound High School Seniors and Their Parents, recently confirmed a finding that is well established in the higher education marketing literature: High school seniors and their parents view college websites as the most influential recruitment channel.